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Living on the edge in war-torn Kyiv


KUALA LUMPUR: Every time Marissa K (pic) leaves her house and steps outside, she is putting her life at risk.There are missiles dropping everywhere and just last Thursday, the Malaysian, who wants to be known as Marissa, was only a few hundred metres away when a residential building was bombed.

Marissa is one of two Malaysians who have opted to remain in war-torn Ukraine, despite the war going on there.

“I choose to stay because the people I care for are here. Some people here cannot leave and some won’t leave,” she told The Star from Kyiv.

“At the start of this conflict, I didn’t understand why those who could leave didn’t want to. But then I grew to understand that this is their home. Everything they have worked for their whole lives is here,” she said.

Marissa relocated to Ukraine with her partner in November last year when the lockdown in Malaysia ended.

Following the Russian invasion, she left the capital city Kyiv for Lviv, a city in the western part of Ukraine.

“We went to Lviv for two months when things heated up in Kyiv. But since the Russian troops have pulled out of Kyiv, there are no Russian occupiers in the Kyiv region; people began to return and so did we,” she said.

But Marissa pointed out that there is no place in Ukraine which is safe from the missile attacks.

Close call: A residential building struck by the Russian armed forces near the apartment building where Marissa lives. — Photo courtesy of Marissa K.Close call: A residential building struck by the Russian armed forces near the apartment building where Marissa lives. — Photo courtesy of Marissa K.

“Every time you’re out on the streets, there is a chance that a missile could hit the street or building near you,” she said.

Last Thursday, she heard two powerful “thunder-like” explosions while in a car on her way home.

“We got out of the car and we saw a cloud of smoke. It was just two blocks down from where we were,” she said.

Minutes later, an ambulance and fire trucks rushed towards that direction.

“It turned out that the Russians had fired missiles at a residential building. It was the same day United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres and Bulgaria’s Prime Minister were visiting Kyiv,” Marissa said.

According to a report in Global News, at least 10 people were wounded.

The explosions could be heard across most of the city but Ukrainians have largely resisted calls to move to bomb shelters, continuing to sit at restaurants and go about their day as usual.

Roughly two hours after the initial strikes, at least two more explosions were heard in the capital.

Asked if she feared for her safety, Marissa replied: “Well, I would say that I am taking precautions.”

Her family in Malaysia is understandably worried about her.

“Of course they are, but they respect my decision (to remain in Ukraine),” said Marissa, who is in her 20s.

As for her days in Ukraine, she said that “life goes on in Kyiv with lots of risk”.

“More people, including me, have returned to the capital after two months. Some European diplomats have come as a show of support.

“Some local businesses are operating. Those who can work are told to do so by the government to help the economy,” she said.

The Ukranian economy has fallen by nearly 50% because of the Russian invasion, “so they really need to operate businesses, even though there is a huge risk of missile attacks”.

Asked about how she gets her daily necessities, Marissa said that where food was concerned “we have products here in the shops, though it is not a wide selection”.

“Sometimes the shelves are empty but we have all the basics we need. Prices of vegetables and fruits have increased, though,” Marissa said.

She also noted that most major cities in Ukraine still have Internet service.

“But in some places such as occupied Mariupol and Kherson, Russians have cut off Internet access,” she said.

And there is still access to credible news sources via Telegram channels.

“They are the most recent and up to date. In each city, there are also localised news channels (on Telegram) for air sirens warnings and curfew times and updates in the city.

“I also watch the news on YouTube (such as CNN, DW and CNBC) from time to time to get a western (outside) view on the situation,” she said.

Marissa said she hopes kind-hearted Malaysians would help those who are in need in Ukraine by donating through https://www.comebackalive.in.ua/

The Kyiv-based Come Back Alive Foundation, launched in 2014, is one of the biggest charities in Ukraine, whose aim is to support their armed forces.

Marissa also has another reason to remain in Ukraine.

“I believe I can help locally as well as internationally by raising awareness and speaking the truth.”

Marissa is one of the two Malaysians known to be in Ukraine.

According to the Malaysian embassy in Poland, the two Malaysians made the decision to remain behind for personal reasons and due to family commitments.

“They are both safe as the embassy is continuously in contact with them to check on their well-being and safety,” the embassy said.

It also added that the vast majority of Malaysians known to have resided in Ukraine have already been evacuated.

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